It’s something that guidance counselors will tell every high school graduate. Now that it’s May, it seems like a good time to re-visit this fact. My counselor told it to me, as I sat bright-eyed and dreamy in her tiny concrete office, demanding I take choir again when it had offered nothing to offer my future. I didn’t listen, just like most students don’t.
There are so many things to hash out on the college front that I can’t even get into all of it with one post. In truth, there are many reasons why it isn’t right from one person to the next. I will follow-up on the topic with more posts, I promise. For now, I wanted to tackle the most pressing issue. If it’s not right for everyone, why do so many students opt for it anyway?
Did you know an estimated 30% of students change their majors throughout their college career at least once? It varies based on major, but what’s more is students estimated around 40% enroll in college without even knowing what they want to major in. They need direction, they need guidance. They’re lost after a lifetime of learning. Don’t get it twisted my friends, colleges are businesses. They don’t care what you enroll in, so long as you’re paying tuition.
The shorter answer though is fear. I can recall very clearly being a high school senior, still having no clue what I wanted to do when I became an official adult and had that shiny diploma in hand. No clue how I was going to afford an apartment, food, transportation. How the heck did my parents do it? Are they secret millionaires? I sat in the library for weeks in a panicked mania researching the different occupations I would be a good fit for. Maybe not the best way for me to plan my out future of happiness.
“Nothing is a bigger waste of time than an education in the wrong direction”
If I could do it all over again I would take the dreaded year off, maybe two. Many students fear the gap year as a sign of slacking, laziness, delaying their inevitable happiness by a whole year. Afraid that if they take any time away from their studies, they will never return and be subject to a life of poverty. Also, how would they squeeze in those prerequisites they needed if they didn’t start right away? Well, hear me out.
Nothing is a bigger waste of time than an education in the wrong direction. During my frantic search for a career, I settled on nursing, knowing that I would be a good fit for the job. In my haste, however, I never stopped to question whether the job would be a good fit for me. Two years of general studies and prerequisites, then two more years of hard training to work as a medic. Subsequently running 911 calls on an ambulance to gain experience. Always turning down jobs that were non-medical focused. All to walk away from everything the day my number was called for nursing school. I was miserable, hardly seeing my family or friends, hating my job. If I had to talk to one more jaded nurse or uncaring practitioner I was gonna snap. I was burnt out on a career yet to begin.
The year off could’ve saved my mind and career. If I had taken the time to revisit my talents, the things I’d been entertaining as hobbies I would have found my career calling right there. This should be so much more than time to relax on the sofa. It’s a good time to volunteer, intern, research, discover who you are in a world away from schooling. If you can, snag two part-time jobs in different occupations that you’re interested in. This will be a great insight into what you’re looking for in your future career. Have you considered being a doctor? Perhaps you could take some first aid courses at the Y, work as a lifeguard, or volunteer at the hospital itself. Thinking of being a teacher? There are plenty of summer camps that need counselors and daycares that need employees. You can read more ideas here.
The reason I suggest this is two-fold. Reason one being that delicious cash you will need for books! Books, books, expensive college books; also knowing that you worked hard for this course you chose will ensure that you don’t just pick something on the fly to pass the time. If you’re going to go to college you need a plan and a career path. Don’t attend just for a degree to put up on the wall. Your wallet will thank you.
“The year off could’ve saved my mind and my career.”
The second reason for this suggestion is quite obvious and the biggest fear monger of all… You need to learn about yourself. What do you enjoy doing vs. what are you actually good at? Maybe dad wants you to be a lawyer but you love woodworking, and you’re really quite talented in it. Your career goals may not require you to spend thousands of dollars on an education. Often times you can even educate yourself. If you think of all the circumstances you’ve really enjoyed learning something new, was it in a classroom?
Your career path does not necessarily have to be for the rest of your life either, but when you’re spending thousands of thousands of dollars on an education you’re kind of hoping it will be. There is no shame in trying that lifeguard job and realizing that having the responsibility for other lives is really not for you (I’m raising my hand in agreement over here). If you can save yourself piles of money and loads of time in the process that’s just a bonus.
I’m not completely knocking college here either, my friends. If you have thought long and hard about a career and can see yourself doing nothing else, then it’s kind of a no-brainer. Luckily for me, I’ve discovered I have a penchant for two things, writing, and sales. Things I can thankfully educate myself in. Until next time, I wish you plenty of ink friends.